work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12 ESV
Work – Anyone who knows a little about the study of motion and work is familiar with this Greek word. It is ergon (noun) and ergazomai (verb). We get ergonomics from this root. In the Greek culture, it covered an extremely wide range of occupations, trades, skills and activities. The Greeks were a people dominated by a “work ethic” (doesn’t that sound familiar). One of their greatest poets coined the phrase “known by their works.” We carry the same orientation today when we use the formula greeting, “What do you do?” We are simply suggesting that people are measured by their work.
For the Hebrews, “work” is a word that is ultimately about God. God is a God of activity. He is known by His work. Of course, this begins with Creation. God’s handiwork is seen in every aspect of creation. But God is not limited to a Newtonian view of the universe – a God who set everything in motion and then walked away. God is at work in every moment and every detail of His Creation. God is continuously involved in the history of this world, in judgment, redemption, direction and eventually restoration. Yeshua confirmed this view of God when He said, “My Father is working even now” (John 5:17). In the New Testament, the work of a believer is always ultimately an expression of the activity of God. This means that no matter what trade, occupation, skill or activity you name in answer to the question, “What do you do?”, the believer understands that his or her activity is first and foremost service to God. Since work is an extension of the active God, there is no discrepancy between “faith” and “works.” One is simply a reflection of the other. Work is the Hebrew avodah, the harmony of partnered effort, service and worship. By the way, if you are involved in toil, then you know that what you do isn’t work because it isn’t the serendipity of worship of the King, blessing others and care for the creation. Toil is drudgery.
Work is serious business. Your work is God’s calling to you to demonstrate His sovereignty in your life, His character in your actions, His holiness in your choices. So, work it out carefully. There is a lot more at stake than a paycheck.
Once you’ve determined to work out your own salvation with care and concern, you’re ready to read the second part of this verse. Your work is God’s work too.
Topical Index: work, ergon, ergazomai, avodah, salvation, Philippians 2:12